Plan, then adjust

By Kate Lee

Agile strategy transformations organizations and delivers results

Agile strategy gives organizations the framework and mindset necessary to accelerate momentum and drive results while simultaneously developing leaders, aligning teams, changing the way the organization works, and energizing people. The process is quick and iterative, continuously reevaluating and refining strategic imperatives, long-term strategies, and short-term initiatives.

In a “normal” environment, agile strategy gives the organization a competitive edge. In an environment that forces agility, such as the one we are in, the strategy (and the organization) becomes more agile.

The following is an excerpt from our new book, “The Core 4: Harness Four Core Business Drivers to Accelerate Your Organization.”

Plan, Then Adjust

Our work with many leaders and organizations over the years has taught us that real change is iterative and ongoing. It involves learning from successes and failures. It requires recurring dialog and realignment. And it’s never complete. Change is definitely not always sequential, following a certain structure or plan, though it is critical to have a plan—and more importantly, a process—with some predictability to it. Though as the military says, the first casualty of every battle is the battle plan.

While there are many, many good approaches to change that advocate following a specific process or methodology, our experience is that there are also many disruptive factors that can modify the course of planned change—macroeconomics, customers, competitors, regulators, and shareholders, to name a few. While we believe it’s critical to have a plan for change, we’ve also learned to live by the adage that things will change.

Create a Roadmap

One of the first things we do when working with leaders is help them build a roadmap for the change they want to drive. The roadmap is based on the leader’s recognition that something new and different is needed. A market force requires a new direction. Subtle changes shifting the business environment demand a measured response. Disruptors (like Apple, Facebook, Amazon, or Uber) entering the market require a quick leap to the future. If you’re a new leader, you may recognize this disruption on the horizon more readily than others, and realize that the business needs to operate a little (or a lot) differently. To make change happen, you need to align your team, achieve agreement on the challenge at hand—and start building a roadmap.

We work with the change leader to involve specific individuals in the organization (most often, their leadership team) in refining the roadmap. There are always different roads to take to the desired outcome, and debate, collaboration, conversation, and conflict with others help the leader and the team determine the road with the highest probability of success. The roadmap not only helps determine what the leader and organization will do to create the change, but also (sometimes even more importantly) it identifies what they will not do. The change roadmaps we work with leaders to create are designed to communicate two key points to their organizations—why a change is needed and a plan for making the change in a disciplined way. At their core, these roadmaps are focused on helping people in the organization change. After all, you can change services, products, technologies, and other aspects of the business, but successful transformation ultimately comes down to the people doing the real work.

So after aligning your senior team, the next step is to engage the next level of the organization via an honest, open conversation. When you engage the key levels of your organization, people will begin to change the way they think, and the way they work.

Keep on Top of Change

Once the change roadmap is established, we work closely with leaders to keep on top of change, controlling and adjusting its course. The leaders we’ve worked with are closely involved in the change effort, and have engaged the leadership team as well as other levels of their organization. Though others are involved, the leader owns the process.

Leaders know that the change will usually not go as initially planned, and that they will have to adjust the plan as the process evolves. They know that it’s their job as a leader to bring some degree of order to the messiness of change. So they continually navigate through the forces that can affect the change roadmap. And they work to bring simplicity and focus to the very complex landscape of change, so their teams can take appropriate action. All while simultaneously driving the business to achieve its financial, organizational, customer-focused objective, or another goal.

That’s change in action, in the real world.

Accelerate the Pace

As many leaders and experts have told us (and as I have experienced personally), change doesn’t just continue to happen once it is launched.

Change needs to be first led, then supported, pushed, measured, and accelerated to ensure that it keeps going. And then, even if the path changes, the change has to keep happening, and fast.

From communication to politics, product development to competition—everything moves faster than ever. Leading a business and inspiring change can be like trying to take a drink from the proverbial firehose. The more time you spend in a competitive business environment, the more you realize the importance of speed—sharing information, raising critical issues, resolving problems, and making decisions. As we enter a hyper-market, shared economy, leaders have to have the speed they need—and know when it’s needed.

Maybe you grew up thinking and acting fast. Maybe speed is in your DNA. Or maybe you learned how to accelerate over time. But no matter where you learn it, that ability to deal with a relentless pace is vital.

You have to make sure that in the midst of all this fast-moving change and non-stop acceleration, you still have the clarity and insights to make smart decisions quickly, not ill-considered decisions recklessly.


We're looking forward to hearing from you!

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